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For those of us in need of an uplifting, comforting, and escapist read about pulling together in troubled times and finding solace in community, the highly anticipated 2020 debut The Jane Austen Society (St. Martin’s Press, on sale May 26) by Natalie Jenner is the perfect pick. Plus, the audiobook is narrated by Richard Armitage (British actor from North & South, The Hobbit, and more).
Plot: World War II has just ended and Austen’s Chawton estate is at risk of being broken up and sold off to the highest bidder. Despite battling demons of their own, an unlikely group of locals and Austen fans (a schoolteacher, a local doctor, a Hollywood actress, a Sotheby’s auctioneer, a farmer, and a young house servant) fight to ensure that her legacy lives on, finding hope and healing in the process. A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both small and large, and the universal humanity in us.
“Readers who enjoy character-driven novels will want to read this book. Like Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it’s a must-purchase for libraries of all sizes.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Just like a story written by Austen herself, Jenner's first novel is brimming with charming moments, endearing characters, and nuanced relationships, all largely set within and reflecting the often-intrusive atmosphere of a small country community. ...The pleasures are many in this clever tribute to the beloved and endlessly influential Austen and the English village tale.”—Booklist, starred review
Jenner’s human interest backstory: In 2016, four months after realizing a lifelong dream of opening her own independent bookshop following a grueling legal career, Natalie Jenner’s husband was diagnosed with an extremely rare, incurable, and progressive lung disease, forcing her to close the shop. She took what she now calls a “quiet year” to cope with their financial and medical crisis, immersing herself in an activity that had always given her solace: reading Jane Austen. Many may find her situation and feelings quite familiar and relatable. The result of that year is her debut novel inspired by Austen’s own story of writing through illness and financial despair as well as Jenner’s experiences dealing with “anticipatory grief” and trauma.
Early Praise for The Jane Austen Society:
"...thanks to Jenner’s psychologically astute portrayals, the society founders themselves are very real and thoroughly sympathetic. Readers will root for these characters, wishing them Austen-worthy happy endings." —Kirkus Reviews
“Natalie Jenner has penned a charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
NATALIE JENNER was born in England, raised in Canada, and graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law. She worked for decades in the legal industry and also founded an independent bookstore in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. The Jane Austen Society is the first published novel for this lifelong devotee of all things Jane Austen and comes out on May 26, 2020 from St. Martin’s Press (North America) and on May 28, 2020 from Orion (UK).